The World's Great Novels, produce by the NBC University of the Air, worked with the University of Louisville, the University of Tulsa and Washington State University to present serialized adaptions of classic novels over two to six episodes. Listeners could enroll in correspondence courses and earn college credit for listening to the books. For a quarter, students could purchase a companion study guide, The Handbook of the World's Great Novels.
The show was broadcast out of Chicago from 1944 to 1948 on WMAQ and other NBC stations with a group of actors from Chicago. In 1948 the show changed names to NBC University Theater, moved to Hollywood and changed the format from 30-minute shows to one hour shows. This version of the show aired from 1948 to 1951.
Guest commentators appeared on some shows providing commentary about the book currently being read. Commentators included novelists, magazine editors, and academics.The universities also provided messages during the broadcast to let listeners know that they can earn college credit for listening to and reading the classics.
The novels selected were not presented unabridged, they were adapted for the 30-minute radio format. For example, the first and second broadcasts presented "Tom Jones" by Henry Fielding. It seems that the purpose of the radio show was to introduce the listener to the book to grab their interest so that they will go on to read the book, hopefully for college credit. See also: University of the Air's American Novels and Indiana School of the Sky.
For more dramatized broadway plays, see also: Showtime. For other literature-based see also: American Novels, Authors Collection, The Author Meets the Critics, Author's Playhouse, Best Plays, Favorite Story, Great Plays, NBC University Theater, New Theater, Theater Guild on the Air, Tell It Again, Theater Royal, World's Greatest Novels, and Your Playhouse of Favorites.